Sometimes, the most difficult task is to decide the direction of the path. (Dpchallenge.com)

In this part of the preview we’ll talk about those teams that are currently in the middle of the table and make up the middle class of Major League Baseball. Basically, these teams should soon face the choice of the way they want to go further: this is either a transition to a state of perestroika, or a further strengthening of the main team at the expense of the young and an attempt to become a contender.

In the previous two parts of our preview we discussed the rebuilding team, so if you for some reason missed them, then you can read both of the links: Part I, Part II.

Kansas City Royals

Last season: 81-81

Forecast of analytical systems for the season: 76-86

Manager: Ned Youst

Key performers: Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Lorenzo Cain.

The best prospectuses: Raul Mondesi, Hunter Dougher, Josh Stamont, Ryan O’Hearn

Only one season passed since Kansas City became the winners of the World Series, but during this time the team took a step back, finishing last season with a record of 50% of victories. The management of the franchise, led by Dayton Moore, says at the outset about the beginning of a possible restructuring, if the Royals do not show good results in the first half of the season.

Indeed, Moore, as certainly a good manager, understands that for any team (except of course Auckland Athletics), there is nothing worse than hanging around 50% of victories. With the strengthening of Cleveland Indians’ position in his division, as well as the Boston Red Sox and some other teams from the AL West, Kansas City still has few chances to compete, not only for winning the championship, but even for going to the playoffs.

The Royales a few years ago were an innovative team that first put on the strength of bullpen and defense, which allowed her a few years ahead of several competitors. But by the season of 2017 they have lost this advantage, and not the highest budget of the team and not too talented prospectuses do not allow it to compensate for lost positions.

Another blow to the team’s ambitions was the tragic death in a car accident of one of Royals’s most talented players, Jordano Ventura, who could become the leader of the team’s rotation. Instead, the team came pitchers Nathan Carnes and Jason Hammel, who will add a starting rotation of both quality and depth.

In the offseason, Dayton Moore took the first step toward perestroika by exchanging Wade Davis’s clowner, who only has one year left before the contract is over, to the Chicago Cubs for talented, cheap and, most importantly, remaining under the long-term control of outfielder team Jorge Soler.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to see how this team is able to really fight with the best teams of AL without the usual depth of bullpen. From the former abundance of the revelers, only Calvin Herrera remained in Kansas, who will become the new clowner, and also the aging Joaquim Soria, which is a critical moment for the team that has starter players who specialize mainly on two passes of the line of sluggers.

Calvin Herrera is one of the few remaining parts of the champion bullpen in the Royales. (Getty Images)

And, considering that at the end of the season the contracts of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Kane and Alcides Escobar expire, the Royales still have to wait for a grand sale before the deadline. Can Dayon Moore risk a colossal long-term loss for the dubious chance of winning another World Series.

Thus, if suddenly Kansas City will not lead in its division by July, then from them one can and should expect one of the biggest sales in recent times. This will help the team improve the quality and depth of the young talent to start building a new team from scratch around Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez.

Forecast: 80-82. Third place in the AL Center Division

The Detroit Tigers

Last season: 86-75

Forecast of analytical systems for the season: 81-81

Manager: Brad Osmus

Key performers: Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton

The best prospectuses: Matt Manning, Christine Stewart, Bo Burrows.

For a long time, the Detroit Tigers squeezed all the resources out of themselves to reach out to the cherished dream of the then owner of the franchise Mike Illicht – a victory in the World Series. Absolutely any sane prospect without hesitation was exchanged for a ready player, able to help the team win the title.

Unfortunately, this strategy did not bring success to the Tigers, and Mike Illicht died in this offseason, never having come to his main dream. Now, his son Christopher Illicht, whose true motives for the Detroit Tigers is still a mystery to all, has come to govern the empire.

Mike Illicht was not shy to spend a lot of money on players. (Getty Images)

The new owner’s personality is critical in the evaluation of the team’s strategy, and therefore this point should be discussed in more detail. From what I’ve learned, Junior Illicht has been monitoring the daily operations of his family’s corporation since 2004 and is highly respected in the business environment. He does not have such a deep connection with baseball as his father, who played in the lower leagues, and therefore from him one should not expect the same persistence with which Mike Illicht tried to lead the Tigers to the title.

Like any real business man, Christopher Illicht will try to maximize profits from a team whose chances of winning are not too high. A side effect of this may be the sale of the main assets of the team, which in the near future may well become liabilities, given the age and the amount of the contracts of the players of Detroit.

If you look at the composition of the Tigers, it immediately becomes clear why this team could not reach the top. Roster Detroit is one of the most unbalanced in Major League Baseball, and the team is severely affected by poor defense, which last season was the fourth since the end. To make a fuss this season, the Tigers need young starters Matt Boyd, Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris to take another step forward, and the oldies at least stayed at the same level.

Michael Fulmer and other young pitchers of Detroit should continue to progress. (Getty Images)

But Detroit is completely out of stock, and any injury or a sharp decline in results could put an end to the management’s hopes of fighting this season for something serious. In this case, before deadline, the Tigers will try to dump the large contracts that they generously gave out in the era of Mike Illithcha, if possible.

The team can both claim 88-89 victories in the event of an ideal combination of circumstances, and fail to 75 wins in the event of injuries and sales. All this leads to the idea that a realistic scenario is the season in the region of 50% of victories and the gradual shift of the team’s strategy towards perestroika.

Forecast: 81-81. Second place in the division AL Center

Miami Marlins

Last season: 79-82

The forecast of analytical systems for the season: 78-84

Manager: Don Mattingly

Key performers: Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Christian Jelic, Marcelo Ozuna, JT Ti Rialmuto.

The best prospectuses: Braxton Garratt; Left men throwing a ball and waving their beats.

Last season, the Miami Marlins did not expect any serious results, but the team showed that it is able to fight and bring trouble to anyone. Nevertheless, last season remained in history, and the current season should be very difficult for the team, because it will try to start a new era, which is inevitable after the death of Jose Fernandez.

Jose was a person and a player that can not be replaced, but management Marlins did an excellent job in the off-season, making the best possible that the team’s results did not fall in the upcoming season.

Miami is another team whose discussion is simply impossible without discussing the person of its owner – Joffrey Lauria. It is not for nothing that absolutely all the fans of this team hate him, because Loria is a rare asshole, preferring not to spend money, take impulsive decisions and at the same time demand high results from management.

But there is also a ray of light in this – Loria is going to sell the team in the near future. That’s why he decided to fork out a huge contract for Giancarlo Stanton, and also sign the pitchers Wei-Yen Chen last season and Edinson Volks in this one. As a result of an exchange with Cincinnati Reds, another starter, Dan Streilly, joined the team.

Something tells me that Lauria already knew that he would not be paying Stanton. (Getty Images)

The only reason for Lauria’s generosity is the fact that he simply simply does not plan on paying his money to these baseball players. His plan is to maintain the team’s results at least an average level, so that the price of the Marlins franchise is as high as possible at the time of sale, because the price is directly dependent on both the value of the players in its composition and the results.

Another example of the light-headedness of the owner is the weakness of the team’s prospectus farm, where in fact there is only one Braxton Garrett, who was selected in the first round of the previous draft. You can name a couple of names of players who will probably be able to make their way to MLB and become role players there, but all these people would not be included even in the top 15, and possibly in the top 30 best prospectuses of any of the teams that we discussed in the first Two parts of our season preview.

Speaking about the team itself, it’s worth noting that Miami, despite everything, is trying to keep pace with the times. I’ll tell you about one chip that the Marlins reliever is actively trying to use – it’s called a sabermetric concept like “tunneling.”

This concept refers to the style of innings, when absolutely all pitches are made from one point and the pitcher tries to throw so that all his pitches are flying the maximum possible distance along the same “tunnel”, and then at the last moment the shots must change Its trajectory, depending on the type of pitch.

The solid game of pitchers in Miami is a consequence of the analytical approach in the team. (Getty Images)

It is important for the pitcher to maintain the same speed of the hand in order to further confuse the better. All this prevents the battering player from understanding exactly what type of throw the pitcher has applied against him and gives the opportunity to enter a new level to the pitcher who does not possess a strong arsenal by nature.

Another area that the Marlins tried to strengthen in the offseason was the bullpen, which was signed by the former Arizona Clauder Brad Ziegler, and also Unishi Tazawa. With the help of a strong bullpen and the restriction of starters with two passes through the line of sluggers, Miami will try to compensate for the loss of Fernandez, and in addition it should help keep the starter health and freshness until the end of the season. That is, the team is trying to repeat the path of Kansas City Royals, which in this way compensated for the insufficient level of their starting pitchers.

In general, the team’s task is not to let Joffrey Loria change her mind about selling the franchise, and on the field from the Marlins one can expect results only slightly worse than last season, even taking into account the injury of Martin Prado, who will miss the start of the season. Dee Gordon should obviously look better than last season, Christian Jelic show further progress, and Giancarlo Stanton can even finally hold a completely healthy season, which should compensate for losses compared to last season.

Forecast: 77-85. The fight against Philadelphia for third place in the NL East.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Last season: 69-93

The forecast of analytical systems for the season: 77-85

Manager: Torri Lovullo

Key performers: Paul Goldschmitt, Zack Grinke, AJ Pollock, Jake Lamb, Robbie Ray

The best prospectuses: Anthony Banda, Domingo Leiba, Davell Lugo, John Duplantier.

This offseason was marked by one very important and, perhaps, epochal event: with the change of management, Arizona became the last team of Major League Baseball, which officially entered the 21st century!

The fact is that before this winter the owner of Dimonbeks was creating the real cult of the old-school baseball with all his might, and this was reinforced by the appointment of the persons concerned to the highest positions in the leadership. For them, there were only a few requirements: the complete denial of sabermetrics, new technologies and techniques for evaluating players, and veneration of the archaic.

As a result, the team performs worse every year, the management makes exchanges that no adequate manager would have done, which ultimately led to the impoverishment of the once-rich farm of prospectuses with no visible results of the main team. Last season, Arizona could not even adequately merge the season, dropping from the third pick in the draft to the seventh in the last couple of weeks of the regular season.

After the change of power in the team, Tony La Russa remained alone. (Getty Images)

This led to a shift to the lower position of Tony La Russa, as well as the dismissal of the former general manager Dave Stewart, who simply summed up his work phenomenally by a single phrase at the final press conference: “It’s good that I was fired, because I There are more important things to do. ” A true professional.

A new regime led by the former GM Boston Red Sox Mike Hazen immediately began to rake the “Augean stables.” He started with the invitation of his colleagues in Boston – manager Torri Lovullo and director of scouting Amil Saudaye. At the same time, Mike Bell, who was one of Hazen’s rivals in the struggle for the post of general manager of Arizona, remained at his post as director for the development of young players.

Looking at the results of last season, the main problem of the team was again pitching, where almost all players showed disappointing results. The cause of the problem, according to the new regime, was ketcher Wellington Castillo, who immediately left the team, and in his place were signed Jeff Matis and Chris Ayanatta, who are strong defenders and are good at working with pitchers.

The second problem that significantly influenced the results of the applicants was the defense in the outfielder, where they missed almost the entire season of AJ Pollock and David Peralta, while Yazmani Thomas pampered opponents with unexpected singles and doubles.

Serious injury to the “Golden Gloves” Pollock has created huge problems for the protection of Arizona. (Getty Images)

Thomas, unfortunately, Mike Hazen has not yet managed to put it anywhere, but the return of Pollock and Peralta in itself can do wonders for pitchers in Arizona. It should help pitching and exchanging with the Seattle Mariners, which resulted in a very talented starter named Tazhuun Walker, who used to be in the top 5 prospectuses in baseball, but at the level of Major League Baseball had very mixed results.

Diamondbacks management relies on pitchers’ talent, because Shelby Miller, Tazhuun Walker and Archie Bradley were on the list of top 10 baseball prospectuses between 2012 and 2013, which indicates their talent. If you add Eis Zach Grainke, Patrick Corbin, as well as Robbie Ray, who improves their results every year, these starters of Arizona may become shadow candidates for the title of the top 5 rotation in Major League Baseball this year

In general, Arizona is a team that can surprise this season, because it does not weigh heaviness of high expectations of last season, and if to a strong performance on the bit of past seasons Diamondbacks can finally add improved pitching, then hit the playoff -off through one of the wild card slots is quite likely.

But we will put on a slightly different development of events. The current management of Arizona is distinguished by a strategic approach, which is not limited to accidental hits in the playoffs every five years. To achieve a long-term success for a team with a small budget it is necessary to have strong prospectuses that are a source of cheap talent, and cheap talent is the only chance for a poor team to win the championship.

Zak Grinke’s contract is the main obstacle to success, because Arizona is forced to pay him more than $ 31 million annually until 2021 inclusive, and another 62.5 million after the contract expires as deferred payments. With a Diamondbacks budget of 110 million, this is too much for an aging player.

The Grinke contract is the anchor for Arizona’s long-term prospects. (Getty Images)

Investing in exceptionally protective catchers suggests that the team will try to fill the price of Zak Grinke and Shelby Miller with the goal of exchanging these pitchers before deadline. Favorable for the team contracts, AJ Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt expire in two and three seasons respectively, which also gives Arizona a chance to very profitable to exchange both stars. Leave the team and must outfielder Yazmani Thomas, as soon as Arizona finds an exchange partner from AL, who will agree to take on the Cuban contract.

Until July, Diamondbacks can surprise the whole league with their results, as well as surprise it in the deadline exchange of many of their stars. Goldschmitt is likely to remain in the team until the next offseason, but the exchanges of Grinke, Pollock and Thomas are extremely likely. With all this, Arizona can become a team that finished the season in the region of 50% of victories, but determined with its long-term strategy.

Forecast: 81-81. Third place in the NL West.

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